How to Cook Tempeh

What is tempeh?

Tempeh is a specialty of Indonesian cuisine. It's a product made of whole fermented soybeans, which through the culturing process, are bound into a cake-like form.

Tempeh is less processed than tofu, and has a firmer texture, as the soybeans remain intact. It absorbs the flavors in which it is cooked, and so it is usually marinated and then fried, steamed or baked.

This is a food that can be served alone, commonly as a side dish or appetizer with dipping sauce, or as part of a larger meal, to provide substance and protein in a stir fry, Buddha bowl, curry, sandwich, wrap, taco, soup, chili or stew, to name only a few.

Today I'll teach you my go-to method of cooking tempeh quickly -- in about 10 minutes without any preparation in advance -- to serve as a side dish, snack or sandwich addition.

Sautéed Tempeh


  • 1 block of tempeh
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Garlic powder, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp Nama Shoyu (or low-sodium soy sauce, coconut aminos, or gluten-free tamari)
  • Trader Joe's Chili Lime Salt (optional, but delicious)


1.Slice a block of tempeh widthwise into thin strips, each about a half inch wide. 

2. Warm a Tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.

3. Before the oil gets too hot, work quickly and drop each slice of tempeh onto the pan and then immediately flip it over.

If you do this flipping step first, both sides of the tempeh will be coated in oil. If you don't, there won't be much oil left in the pan to coat the other side by the time you flip them later.

4. Turn the heat down to medium and let the tempeh sauté on the first side for about 5-8 minutes.

5. When the bottoms are golden and just beginning to brown, flip the tempeh.

Note: I often use my hands to flip the tempeh, but that's dangerous because the pan and oil are hot. So I recommend using a spatula to do this instead. 

6. Sauté for another 5 minutes, or until the slices are golden on both sides.

7. Turn off the heat and cover the tempeh in a light dusting of garlic powder. You can adjust the amount to your taste.

8. Splash just a bit of Nama Shoyu (or low-sodium soy sauce, gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos) over the tempeh, and toss the slices with a spatula to coat.

9. If desired, sprinkle a bit of Trader Joe's Chili Lime Salt over the tempeh. This is optional, but really adds wonderful flavor.

That's it. Quick and easy.

And now the tempeh is ready to accompany a large dinner salad, as pictured.

You could also slide a few tempeh strips into a sandwich or wrap for additional substance and extra flavor, or you can cook them into a curry or stir-fry. The possibilities are endless, really.

Cooked tempeh stores nicely in the fridge. I love to have some on hand already prepared, to snack on after a workout, since it is so rich in plant-based protein, vitamins and minerals. No need to re-heat unless you want to -- tempeh is delicious cold, too.

What's healthy about this recipe?

Tempeh consists of whole, fermented soybeans, which, like other legumes, are high in plant-based protein, fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Soy consumption has been associated with a lower risk of breast cancer, and with a reduction in menopausal hot flashes. Eating soy has also been shown to benefit the kidneys.


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